Originally debuting on the PlayStation 2 in 2006, Disgaea 2 has made it's way to the PSP with loads of new content, this time dubbed Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days. The title plays as a tactical role playing game, but as the series is know for, it takes a bizarre, yet charming, humourous twist on the usual fare. Overlord Zenon has cursed humans, and all but one person has been transformed into demons. Lead character, Adell, untouched by the curse, vows to defeat Overlord Zenon and break the curse that's turned his family into demons, and so begins the adventure of Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days.
As per all RPGs, the first taste of the game players will get is a strong dose of story. Kicking things off, Adell's mom, as former summoner and now three-eyed demon, attempts to summon Overlord Zenon to their village for Adell to defeat. For over a decade the curse has run amuck, and as more time passes, humans become more demonic, lose more of their conscience, as well as their memories. However, Adell's mom fails to summon the overlord, instead accidentally summoning Overlord Zenon's daughter, Rozalin. All is not lost though, as Adell promises to bring Rozalin back to her father, while maintaining his intent to defeat him. As much of a conundrum as the scenario is at first, Adell and Rozalin set out to find Overlord Zenon together, bringing with them a support team of fighters and sorcerers, among others.
The story keeps itself from being overly complex, and thanks to the clever and superbly written script with an emphasis on humour, the story keeps itself fresh, funny, and unpredictable the entire game. To add to this, the clever writing doesn't stop at the story or script. Even item descriptions and the games world as a whole are uniquely ridiculous, yet charming.
Adell's hometown, Holt, for the most part acts as the game's hub. There is no world map to traverse, no series of fields, towns and mountains to blaze through, simply a gate keeper standing in Holt, who when spoken too lists where Adell can go. All of the services (weapons shop, etc.) in Holt are handled by different non-playable-characters (NPC) standing around with symbols hovering over their heads. This feels like a cop-out at first compared to having shops, inns, and other establishments, but as Adell and crew continue to beat stages, it works well to quickly run to each NPC, do business, then get back to the story and action.
The story and gameplay complement each other quite well, as the story's Netherworld setting lends itself nice to the battlefields, and the imaginative attacks, spells, and abilities are on par with the humourous and entertaining script. However, as absurd as the entire game is, the gameplay is very tight and strategic. Set on large square maps, players and enemies take turns moving characters and choosing what ability each character will use. In 1 turn, players can use up to 10 characters, move each one, and command each one to carry out an ability (attack, special, item, etc.). Once players have all their characters in position, with abilities selected, players can choose to execute their commands, and watch as all their characters carry things out. Once players have ended their turn, the enemy party will then move about and carry out their own commands, and once ended, it's players' turn again. This is the basic back-and-forth of Disgaea 2's battles.Within that, characters of course can level-up, get stronger equipment, learn new spells and abilities, unlock more classes, and generally become even more fun to play. Their is also the element of Geo Panels, which are glowing sections within battlefields, that when coupled with a Geo Crystal add conditions and/or affects to any enemy or character placed within the Geo Panel. For example a 50% Boost to enemies can add quite a bit of difficulty to defending against, and defeating enemies, while a 25% EXP Boost panel is great for leveling up quicker. Conditions and effects range from no lifting and no entering, to double attacks and invincibly, among many others. An assortment of Geo Panels can really turn a normal battle on its head, and all around they bring an added level of depth to battles that are much-welcomed.
In terms of presentation, graphics, music, voice acting and sound, Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days is unfortunately all over the board. The game's music and voice acting is top notch; music is quirky, cool and memorable, and the voice acting is executed perfectly line after line. On the other end, the presentation and graphics are more-or-less stale. The game doesn't look much better than Final Fantasy: Tactics did on the PlayStation 1 at all, and the menu system and character status screens look thrown together.
For those that played Disgaea 2 on the PlayStation 2, there's lots of new and added content to be found in the PSP version. Characters that previously served as bonus bosses can now join Adell's party. There is also the new Axel Mode, that follows the exploits of fallen-star, Axel. Among other additions there are also a few gameplay additions from Disgaea 3 on the PS3. Replayability is still high as ever with a vast assortment of characters, classes and objectives. Just completing everything itself is almost an endless challenge, let alone the spoils of the DLC to come.
Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days is a hardcore game that welcomes newcomers with ease of use and gradually climbing difficulty. The endearing and memorable characters wrapped with great voice work and a superb script continue to hold the bar among the RPG genre as a leader in engaging stories. The gameplay is addictive, unique and just gets deeper and deeper, and certainly stands the test of time. Aside from the graphics, their are few faults in the title, and the added content only sweeten the deal. Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days for the PSP is a sure-win for RPG fans, and definitely a title all PSP owners should check out.